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【HKFWC40】Creating the Vast Maps of Life - Ann Yuen

After learning about the opening of the Tai Wo Centre from a flyer, Ann joined the Hong Kong Federation of HKFWCs in 1998 as a volunteer. She has now been contributing to the community for over 25 years and last year she was awarded the Long Service Award by HKFWC. She hopes to stay healthy this year so that she can continue to take care of her family and help out at the HKFWC at the same time.


Ann recalls that she was an introvert back then and didn't have many friends, so she spent all her time on her family. This lifestyle was probably influenced by her parents, who also put a lot of emphasis on their family. As a child, Ann and her poverty-stricken family lived in a wooden hut in a squatter area : "We didn't have food for every meal, and we didn't have electric lights in the house. We did not have many clothes either, and the living environment was relatively poor." As the eldest daughter in the family, Ann dropped out of school at the age of 14 to work in a factory. "Mom told me, the family situation was not good and that I should go to work. Perhaps Hakka family often value sons over daughters." Despite her unwillingness, Ann finally gave in so that her two younger brothers could go to school.


Breakthrough to a different self

However, the HKFWC offered Ann a variety of new and exciting interest classes, and Ann was as excited as a child in a theme park, attending one class after another. She was a keen learner and continued to challenge herself to this day. One of the most impressive things for Ann was learning to use the computer in 2002. "At that time, there were no (smart) phones, only computers, and I learned how to use the computer to access the Internet and how to type Chinese characters using the Cang-Jie input method. At that time, the class used a group study approach, and we would form groups to learn from each other." After learning to access the Internet and using Cang-Jie, Ann also chose to teach these to other women. Last year, Ann even helped the Centre design posters for an  interest class: "I've never tried designing posters before, and it was really fun." Eventually, the Centre adopted her design and Ann was very happy. "It was really satisfying to design a poster by myself." Other than joining different interest classes, Ann also participated in volunteer work. "There were women volunteering at the Centre already, so I became a volunteer too and worked as a receptionist, answering simple questions from visitors."


During interest classes and volunteer activities, Ann met many fellow sisters and could not stop talking when it came to sharing about the hardships as a carer. It was because the people around her could not understand the stress and grievances carers experienced over the years. For example, Ann was a "work from home" worker but with no time off, no holidays, no salary and no colleagues. She also had to endure much financial and psychological pressure. Fortunately, after coming to the HKFWC, Ann has developed a sense of love for herself and has become more aware of her own needs. "We need to love ourselves and find time to go hiking etc and talk with our friends and sisters at the Centre."


Carers and Stereotypes

However, like her fellow sisters, Ann would become stressed again once she returned home. As a carer, she had to take care of her husband and son who had contracted the coronavirus. Although she was exhausted, she had to continue to take care of her family. So when the Women's Center invited Ann to join them at the government headquarters on International Women's Day to make the voices of carers heard, she agreed to do so at once. In joining the voice, she also broke the stereotype she had given herself. She finds out that she doesn't have to be a "docile" person, and she can fight for her own rights when things are unreasonable. She doesn't have to put others first in everything, and she can also be taken care of. It is because no woman is born to serve, to sacrifice, and to give without questions. These shackles are preventing women from building themselves up and creating their own vast maps of life. 


Ann encouraged her fellow carers. "Take care of your own body and give yourself time to rest. If you have time, go to the Centre to learn more and add value to yourself." Because of her own experience at the HKFWC, Ann hopes that other women will have the opportunity to experience the beauty of growing up.


Looking Ahead

"The HKFWC makes us feel like we belong, like a big family. I like coming back here." As the HKFWC celebrates its 40th Anniversary, Ann hopes that it will continue to grow and strive for more women's rights and services. "I hope the HKFWC can get more venues so that more women can benefit."



Interviewed by Trevor Ng

Edited by Trevor Ng, Jacinta Yu & Alvin Chung